Danill Stepanov has put together a strong start to his Western Hockey League career with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The 17-year-old import forward has two goals and six points in 15 games so far this season and despite just two assists in his past seven games, Stepanov seems to be getting stronger with each passing game.
Stepanov said he's starting to feel more comfortable with the North American game, "Everything is going so good, the first couple of games was pretty hard to get used to the system of [Coach Tim Hunter] and the speed, of course, because players play so fast, but now I’m feeling good, the team helps me and is supportive," he said.
Coming to Canada from Minsk, Belarus, Stepanov adds that becoming more comfortable in his surroundings here in Moose Jaw has led to improved play on the ice.
"It’s all the opportunities [in Moose Jaw], everything to improve and be the best," said Stepanov. "I have good billets, good environment, if I want to go to the cinema, I can go with the guys, everything is so good here and so close and it’s very comfortable. The rink is good too"
The reason for optimism around Stepanov’s game is that despite limited point production, he has his ability to get the puck to the net, sitting fifth on the team with 35 shots. He’s had three or more shots in four of his last seven games and 20 shots in total over that period.
His line with fellow 17-year-old rookie Brayden Tracey and 18-year-old Keenan Taphorn accounted for half of the Warriors’ shots in last Saturday’s 5-1 win over Kootenay.
Stepanov said he’s clicked really well with Tracey, having played most of the season together.
"He’s a pretty good player, he has all the skills to be in the NHL and drafted, so it’s a pleasure to play with him," he said. "We have a connection, I can pass to him while wearing a blindfold."
Stepanov will look to continue generating opportunities for the Warriors as the season progresses.
The Warriors return to game action when the Central Division-leading Red Deer Rebels come to Mosaic Place on Saturday night.